Great magazine designs are all great in their own ways, but crummy magazines are all the same—or at least make many of the same visual mistakes as lots of other crummy magazines. Young Money, a case in point, is dropped onto campuses every Fall in staggering quantities in the hopes of inducing students to join the In Charge Foundation, an organization that claims an interest in helping young adults learn to manage money and become intelligent consumers. Strangely, all their ads are for credit cards, and their articles are about buying things. Go figure.
Arted up with stock art and handouts, The magazine makes a few design mistakes endemic to lazily-produced publications, but most fundamentally, It’s a hodgepodge of visual ideas—you can see half-baked DNA from better glossies scattered around YM‘s pages, including a little bit of Esquire’s signature cover type, stray brackets and chevrons, stripes and boxes of various thicknesses and directions and inconsistent signage. All of this makes the magazine graphically “surprising” as you page through it but not in a good way, because all the changes are stylistic, not substantive. They serve only to undermine the publication’s identity–they don’t provide the graphic information or visual delight that the predictable imagery lacks.
While a low budget explains some of the shortcomings it can’t forgive them all—even with a paucity of resources a good designer can hit target some of the time. More probably, a disconnect between the magazine’s stated mission and the articles it seems to run contribute to the visual fuzziness. Not even the best designers can make clear design out of a mixed message.